Eating, Naturally.

Eating, Naturally.

Of all things, I want to raise a happy child who becomes a happy adult. Sounds simple. Of course, it isn’t.

Nobody knows what really creates happiness. All we know is that it’s a complex interaction between various things.

And the recipe is different for everyone.

I can tell you what doesn’t bring you closer to it. Easy sailing.

In the good old days, you’d have to forage for every bit of food, and work for every tool you had. It must have been some satisfaction to have killed an antelope or carved an arrowhead out of rock. True appreciation. These days we have so much and enjoy so little.

I know where conventional meat comes from for instance, so I don’t eat it. Many consumers are unaware or have suppressed their natural horrors at what we as a society do to animals. I don’t take meat for granted.

I did realize over the weekend at a workshop at Jivala Culinary Institute however, that I disrespect the other foods in my plant based diet. We probably all do.

How many times have I polished off nearly an entire pineapple half in one sitting? That pineapple took 2-3 years to grow. And I ate it over two snacks exchanging emails in front of my laptop. Not only is that hard on the digestive system, but it’s hardly necessary. Your body can only use so many micronutrients at one time. And as for enjoyment, well, the poor pineapple died for a full tummy.

I was also introduced to the philosophy that nature provides best in the ideal amounts. Leafy greens would be most easy to grow and come by (which can be confirmed by anyone who has ever planted them in a garden), therefore should have a central role in the diet. Fruits, grains, legumes and meat would be far more difficult and energy depleting to obtain… therefore would be eaten less frequently. Someone living off the land would be more likely to plant seeds than eat them, so they share a similar spot on the natural plate. It’s then really easy to see that although most natural foods are healthy, eating them in the portions that we are intended to process them in is easily as important.

Dangerous health foods

Dangerous Health Foods

It was another one of those moments – the ones that I have had too often lately. You got me again processed food industry. No, I was not hit hard by the whole “nutella… not a wholesome breakfast choice?… really?” thing. No, no. It wasn’t the usual suspects: fat free peanut butter, microwave popcorn or sugar free food. It was almond milk. I know… NOT almond milk. I drink the stuff by the truck load. I feed it to Ama before bed. When people think processed food, they often think really processed. But in all truth, anything that is not raw is processed… even boiled potatoes. The big question is… do you know what every ingredient on the list is? That sad and scary reality is that even if you can pronounce it, it may still do more harm to you than good. Even if it’s a natural food. Like a seaweed derivative… in something as saintly as almond milk. Or it may not even be listed. Here are the top five offenders in my book. Feel free to add in your own surprise unhealth super foods in the comments!

5. Soy foods. This should come as no surprise to anyone up on nutrition. Those processed weenies are no better than the real thing – they have to put a lot of sodium and various chemicals to make them taste authentically like ground anus. Soy is also best consumed sprouted and fermented. I don’t think the phytoestrogens mean that one should never consume soy products. But one should consume them in moderation. And since soy is everywhere, that means avoiding it. Studies have shown that two glasses of soy milk a day for a month have a significant effect on hormones. Tofu every other week at dinner? OK. But just think of the effect of the tofu crazy on people’s systems… soy milk on soy cereal for breakfast, soy deli meat on soy cheese and soy chips for lunch, soy ground round and soy dessert for dinner. Egads. When you do eat soy, also make sure it’s organic… since it’s one of the most prominent GMO crops.

4. Protein bars and meal replacements. Your meal replacements should still be food. Not all protein bars are an absolute right off. I eat Genki (lentil based), Lara (date and nut based) and Simply Bars (high protein low sugar no articificial sweeteners) when pressed for time. Which since I had Ama, is daily. But these are food, made from food. Take Body for LIfe bars. We have all been told the first five ingredients are the most important. In BFL bars these are soy protein, whey protein, high fructose corn syrup (third ingredient!), vegetable oil, and sugar. Following those five ingredients are another 36 junk ingredients and then… sucralose (artiificial sweetener) for good measure. I guess to make sure there is absolutely nothing redeemable about these hunks of yuck. There are 210 calories in this bar, 60 calories that come from protein, 63 calories that come from fat and 72 calories that come from sugar. And yet they felt they still needed to add sucralose? I guess you need a lot of sugar to cover the taste of a junky chemical mashup. Oh right, and only 1 gram of fiber. Of course they broke open a multi-vitamin and popped that in so it looks like a nutritious product. Sounds like, Body for Death or Disease might be a better name. The point here is that you should look into what is in your preferred supplemental nutrition. It may not be something you want in your body.

3. Cereal. Not all cereal is awful. But most of it is… and all of it is processed. Special K is on my hit list… with 0 grams of fiber – it’s made from ground white rice and sugar. You are starting your day off on an insulin roller coaster ride. You should have more than 5 grams of fiber and less than 8 grams of sugar per serving. Of course, best if that sugar can be contained in dried (not sugar coated) fruit. I like Nature’s Path spelt flakes. But again, they follow into my processed food allotment. The better cereal substitute is always soaked steel cut oats (you can even eat it cold).

2. Decaf. When pregnant, I followed my doctor’s advice diligently on drinking decaf instead of regular. Only near term did I find out that the solvent typically used in the process of decaffeination was potentially harmful, ethyl acetate. The jury is still out on this chemical but I’d say have a look into it yourself. Of course, best to drink Swiss Water or naturally decaffeinated if you are avoiding chemicals. Ethyl Acetate is found naturally in fruit but of course, manufacturing is always cheaper than extraction… so we now reproduce it. On a side note, in a study at Harvard decaf was shown to increase the blood lipids responsible for heart disease.

1. Almond milk, coconut milk, flax milk, soy milk and hemp milk. Collectively known as non-dairy milk (although this label makes me think of non-dairy creamer which raises the yuck-not-meant-for-consumption flag), a substance called Carrageenan is often used as a thickener. And I knew it was. But I thought it was seaweed. Apparently as it degrades in processed food products, it causes a potent inflammatory response. This is particularly important for people with conditions made worse with inflammation. But also since many of the foods we (OK I, I love my almond milk) consume often contain this little nasty. I realized that the type of almond milk that I was currently consuming (Silk) had none. Blue Diamond, the type I had switched from since Silk makes such a lovely foamy latte, contains it. Good bye Blue Diamond hello Silk. Maybe if we all become more aware of what’s in our food, and say goodbye a little more, companies will start looking more closely at what they’re putting in their food too. I just wish it was the other way around!

My new dietary (life) approach

My new dietary (life) approach

My husband has started a blog about my foray into a plant-based diet and how it has affected him. It’s a funny outlook from someone who has been raised to feel that meat is the ultimate food. With my new dietary outlook, he has also taken an interest in different nutrition plans. He came home yesterday laughing about the Paleo Zone diet. You know, just like how our caveman ancestors balanced their macronutrient intake to be a perfect 30/30/40 ratio in the Paleolithic era. Of course, being a Crossfitter and having lots of Crossfitter friends who are doing either Paleo or Paleo Zone, I didn’t think much of it. You know, Zone crossed with Paleo makes Paleo Zone. It was hilarious to me to see it from the eyes of my bag of bagels for lunch husband.

I took Ama to the doctor yesterday for her routine check-up. The doctor asked about food, and I said she eats well but that I supplement with DHA and Vitamin D just to be sure. He noted that as long as she eats lots of leafy greens and nuts, she should be fine for even calcium, iron, calories and healthy fats. He had just read a study where “vegan” kids only required B12 supplementation, and were found to be much healthier than their “non-vegan” counterparts… with larger head circumferences. He reiterated what a vegan was several times. I told him I was on a plant-based diet so I knew the term. I don’t use it though. I am not a vegan. It’s too strong a term for me. It’s a term that invited scrutiny of everything you are eating and everything you are not eating.

I started swinging toward a plant-based diet after sitting in on a session at the Canfitpro Vancouver conference. It was a lecture promoting raw food veganism and I left inspired to give it a go. Not because the presenter, Scott Josephson, was well informed and infectiously passionate about eating raw food. Which he was. He left an important message with me: that it isn’t about diving into a new lifestyle to fit the mold even if that mold doesn’t fit you, it’s about making a healthier you.

He pointed out that you don’t have to eat only raw foods, and that you don’t have to eat only vegan foods. You can just eat more of these foods. And in eating less of these foods, you make a huge impact on the lives of animals, the environment and yourself. I didn’t have to stop eating honey sourced from the interior. I didn’t have to stop wearing silk or throw out all the stuff in my kitchen that had animal derivatives. In fact, he suggested going in slowly. It’s about making positive lifestyle changes that work for you, feeling their wonderful effects, and naturally doing more.

I have started sprouting, dehydrator cooking, making my own coconut yogurt and mostly eliminated animal products in favour of vegetable foods. I feel good. Food digests well, I never feel overly full but always satisfied. I feel like I am making a positive contribution to the world of food choices. Without buying expensive organic grass fed beef, I can buy a lot more non-GMO organic vegetables.

But the take home, is that that’s what feels good to me. It’s all about what feels good to you. Label or no label.